I've been writing my church's worship service for Sunday, and I asked my friend K, who is more into ecology and sustainability than I am, if she knew of any good passages on sustainability that would serve as a reading or readings for our service. She was quick to share some really wonderful material, including some quotations by the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh. I am not sure how much commentary I'm willing or able to provide today, but let me at least share some excerpts from this Guardian interview I came across yesterday.
Hanh writes: "The situation the Earth is in today has been created by unmindful production and unmindful consumption. We consume to forget our worries and our anxieties. Tranquilising ourselves with over-consumption is not the way."
"He says that it is an ill-conceived idea that the solution to global warming lies in technological advances. While science is important, even more so is dealing with the root cause of our destructive behaviour: "The spiritual crisis of the West is the cause for the many sufferings we encounter. Because of our dualistic thinking that god and the kingdom of god is outside of us and in the future - we don't know that god's true nature is in every one of us. So we need to put god back into the right place, within ourselves. It is like when the wave knows that water is not outside of her."
"Our way of life, our style of living, is the cause of [spiritual pollution]. We are looking for happiness and running after it in such a way that creates anger, fear and discrimination." At least in the Western world, much of our happiness is tied up in staying busy for busy-ness's sake, for making money to keep up with the Joneses. This is not to say that individuals do not have meaningful lives. But Snooki and a new Lexus every year are fabricated cultural ideals and goals. And they are killing us on many levels.
He and others talk about the evils of capitalism. I believe in innovation, though not for its own sake. I believe in improvements, but not for the greed of profit. I believe in the desire to take care of oneself and others, but I believe that communities and not islands are the way to effect this.
And then the hook, the same hook Jensen talks about: "Without collective awakening the catastrophe will come," he warns. "Civilisations have been destroyed many times and this civilisation is no different. It can be destroyed. We can think of time in terms of millions of years and life will resume little by little. The cosmos operates for us very urgently, but geological time is different.
"You accept that this civilisation could be abolished and life will begin later on after a few thousand years because that is something that has happened in the history of this planet. When you have peace in yourself and accept, then you are calm enough to do something, but if you are carried by despair there is no hope." Part of me read this as a little non sequitur, but then it clicked again and reminded me of what I wrote recently about our worship of human life at all costs. My ipod, awesome as it is, is not worth the lives of those in the "third world" who were destroyed to mine the minerals that go into my technology.
[Note: this article also shares that "When visiting America, [Hanh] persuaded Martin Luther King to oppose the war publicly, and so helped to galvanize the peace movement. In fact King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968." This tickled me, as I blogged about King quite recently.]
"His whole philosophy is based on watching the breath and walking meditation to stay in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future." I'm still pragmatic and capitalistic enough to work in the system. I have a job. I make money. I consume goods, often unthinkingly. But my quality of life is improved when I am intentional, present, and in the now. It has been an active practice of mine for over a year now, and I am so happy.
Thich Nhat Hanh encourages people to avoid toxic things, whether they are edible consummables or alcohol or soul-damaging [my word, not his] media. I think these are things to be mindful of. I am not a radical yet, but I think there is much we can learn from. And now back to one of my oldest mantras (I'm full of them... or something... recently), "Everything in moderation - except Love."